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Not-so-guilty pleasure? Adults buying Halloween candy for themselves

Households across the US are stockpiling candy for Halloween trick-or-treaters, but it's not necessarily for the kids who knock at the door. 

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This image released by Jason Varden shows candy purchased in anticipation of Halloween trick-or-treaters iat his home in Milpitas, Calif. on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. But like a lot of adults who buy sweets prior to the holiday, Varden acknowledges that he doesn’t usually get many trick-or-treaters and often ends up consuming the sweets. Still, he wants to be prepared just in case kids do drop by.

Jason Varden/Associated Press

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Don Stewart and his wife will be home with the lights on Halloween night, waiting for trick-or-treaters. But like a lot of folks who stock up on candy, they'll probably end up eating it themselves.

"My wife and I buy candy every year, knowing that trick-or-treaters won't come to see us," said Mr. Stewart, an artist in Homewood, Alabama. That's why they buy the treats they like, not necessarily what they think kids will like: "Nothing is wasted. If we plan well, there's usually enough to last us 'til Christmas."

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This little game of self-deception plays out each year in buildings where apartment-dwellers wait in vain for door knocks and on suburban side streets and country roads where kids don't wander. "We were bummed out the first few times," said Stewart, "until we realized, 'Hey this is a bonus. We can buy all the candy we want and eat it and it's not our fault.'"

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When Paula Werne moved to a rural stretch in Ferdinand, Indiana, 32 years ago with her farmer husband Gary, "I was skeptical we'd have any trick-or-treaters." But her husband insisted the location wouldn't deter locals.

"I purchased multiple bags of goodies and positioned a welcoming jack-o'-lantern in the front window," she recalled. And who came? "Not a soul. Not a single solitary soul ... I even checked to make sure the doorbell worked. Twice." Her husband ate the candy, and each year since, he has convinced her that "this might be the year."

According to statistics from the National Retail Federation, Americans spend $2.2 billion on Halloween candy each year.

Some folks think fewer kids go door to door these days, with more organized parties and programs instead. "Kids do their trick-or-treating at school now because of safety reasons or fear of drunk drivers," said Jason Varden, who works for an online videogame company Gazillion and lives with his wife in Milpitas, California. "It goes into the helicopter mom thing of 'We're not going to let our kids go up to strangers.'"

The trend hasn't stopped him from buying the 200-plus-size bags of goodies from Target. "It's all for the children!" he insisted. "But we bought Kit Kats and Snickers – candy we knew we would eat if we had to."

Bryanna Johns, 20, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, isn't that far removed from her childhood trick-or-treating, but she thinks the practice "is losing its appeal. People are so worried about can you trust who your child is getting candy from. They're going trick-or-treating more in children's museums, churches and malls instead."

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She goes home Halloween night to help her mom answer the door, but they typically only get about 20 kids. So mom buys candy the family likes –Snickers and Reese's Pieces, rather than fruity or fizzy sweets – and they watch a horror movie at evening's end while finishing the leftovers.

Monique Lewis also has fond memories of trick-or-treating as a kid in Arlington, Virginia. But as an adult living in three different apartments, she's never had a trick-or-treater.

"First year in, I was so excited because I was certain that I would be flooded. By the time 10 p.m. had rolled around, I was standing in the hallway with my door open, frantically searching for the missing treaters," said Ms. Lewis, a marketing consultant now living in Manhattan. Each time she moved, she kept buying candy, thinking "every building is different." She even decorated her door to make it inviting.

But usually, the day after Halloween, she's "eating all the candy and throwing impromptu get-togethers" to get rid of it.